- 1 Kings 8:(1,6,10-11), 22-30, 41-43 and Psalm 84 OR
- Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18 and Psalm 34:15-22 AND
- Ephesians 6:10-20
- John 6:56-69
Thoughts On The Word:
It has been one of those weeks! I have had two essays due this week for my B. Theology, and as a result haven't written anything for you! However I have below provided an excellent sermon by The Rev. Dr. Samuel D. Zumwalt, which was originally published here.
Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.
When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.” Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
JESUS MEANS ASSURANCE
In the name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today the Lord Jesus tells us that He means assurance - the assurance of everlasting life to all who entrust themselves to Him as their Savior, the Lord of Life and death, and who are also baptized into His death and resurrection. Jesus means assurance for those that ponder who they are, whose they are, and where they are going ultimately. Do you know Jesus as Savior, as the Lord over your life and death? Do you trust Him to give you the eternal life that He has promised? Have you been baptized into His death and resurrection?
A few years ago a woman came into my office for pastoral conversation. She had just been to a family reunion, and it was ugly. As she described it, quite a few of her relatives had spent their whole lives swimming in the shallow end of the gene pool.
With great tears in her eyes, she asked: "Pastor, why is it that I feel closer to my church family and safer around them than my own family?" Well, I couldn't help myself, I answered: "Because your family is crazier than hell." That's when she got her sense of humor back.
Somebody once said: "Jesus promises that you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. What He didn't say was: ‘Before the truth sets you free, it really has to tick you off.'"
My friend and former parishioner needed to tell herself the truth about her family. They were crazier than hell. And she was a whole lot safer and whole lot more loved by her church family. And it was really OK that she didn't want to be around her family very often or for very long. They spent more time tearing her down than building her up. Alcohol was their best friend, and they wanted her to share their best friend. My friend couldn't be around them for very long, because she knew the truth about herself, too. She had a fatal progressive disease called alcoholism, and she just didn't need to be around people - even her own family - when they were drinking.
In today's Gospel lesson, the Lord Jesus is telling the truth about Himself but some of His disciples can't handle the truth. They can't handle that Jesus is God in the flesh, the Son of God and the Son of Mary, truly God and truly human. They can't fathom that He is claiming to be the living Bread of Life, the living message of God's great love. Jesus' words about eating His flesh and drinking His blood in order to abide in Him sounds to them like a bunch of cannibalistic gibberish. And so some of them suddenly decide they have places to go and people to see. They become the very first post-disciples. They are so done with Jesus!
Now you probably know some people that are post-disciples - people that used to follow Jesus and used to listen to Him and used to learn from Him. But now, like the disciples in today's Gospel lesson, they have turned back and no longer walk with Jesus.
Someone once said that Christianity has not so much been tried and found wanting. That mostly Christianity has gone untried. In other words, people never really got to know Jesus as Lord and Savior in the first place. Some never really listened to Him or learned from Him. For some, Jesus was like some fairy tale figure that you grow too old to believe in. For some, Jesus was like a childhood friend that you outgrew, because you were going places in life where He was saying you just didn't need to go!
Why is it that some people leave Jesus behind? I think that they're busy trying to win someone else's approval. My friend and former parishioner could have decided that it was more important to be accepted by her crazy family than to do the next right thing. She could have been so needy for their approval that she would have done what would tear her life apart just in order to fit in. But my friend didn't go there, because she knew Jesus as her Lord and Savior. She knew that she was more precious, lovable, and valuable than God's own life. And while it hurt not to have a so-called normal family, she had found a more loving family in her church and in Alcoholics Anonymous.
When you know Jesus as Lord and Savior, you know who and whose you are - you are a child of God. You know where you are going ultimately - you have the Lord Jesus' promise that He is yours and you are His. You have been buried and raised with Him in Holy Baptism. Like Peter, you can't go anywhere else - the Lord Jesus has the words of eternal life. You know the truth, and the truth has set you free.
The sanest people I know - the most grounded people I know - the most centered people I know all know who and whose they are and where they are going ultimately. And you can't budge them with a bulldozer. They know Jesus, and they abide in Him.
I say this from time to time, and I'll say it again today. We practice the faith, so it's there when we need it. We follow Jesus. We listen to Him and learn from Him, so that when the really tough stuff comes along we don't stupidly try to handle it without Him!
Sometimes it's really hard to entrust yourself to Jesus, your Lord and Savior. When it seems like no one loves you, you are vulnerable to settling for less. When it seems like no one cares about you, you are vulnerable to settling for less. When it seems like the really popular people don't acknowledge you, you are vulnerable to settling for less. When it seems like God has forgotten you or has really let you down, you are vulnerable to settling for less. When it seems like everyone else has it so much better than you, you are vulnerable to settling for less. And that's when we are tempted to be stupid - to try to play the hand life has dealt us without Jesus. That's when a lot of us mess up our lives. We leave Jesus behind. We settle for less, and we really get hurt!
To those that think Jesus is a spoil sport that just doesn't want anyone to have any fun, I have to say, "You've really got it wrong." He doesn't want any of us to get hurt. That's why our God says "No" to us in Scripture. He knows that when we disobey, that when we don't listen, we are headed for heartache - ours and often someone else's, too!
Jesus means assurance. God so loved you and me, and the whole world, that He became human in Jesus Christ to save us from sin, death, and evil - to save us from ourselves. Whatever we have done, wherever we have been, however we have been hurt, however we may have hurt others, the Lord Jesus has died on the cross to take away our sins. God loves us. God wants us to have His forgiveness. God wants us to live with Him forever. He wants us to abide with Him in His life and His love. He doesn't want us to run away and to keep on doing stupid things to ourselves and to others.
So if today you are hurting deep down inside because of something you have done or because of something someone has done to you, hear the Lord Jesus' promise. God loves you. God forgives you. God wants you to live with Him forever - and forever begins right here and right now! The Holy Spirit is knocking on the door of your heart.
Bow your head with me and repeat this prayer silently in your heart: "Lord Jesus, I have done some really stupid things in my life. I have tried to live without your help. I have run away from you too often. I have cared more about what others think than about what you think. I have doubted your goodness and your love. Have mercy on me, a sinner. Take all my sins to your cross. Help me to trust you with my living and my dying. I want to live with you forever. Help me to walk with you. Abide in me. Stay with me. And help me never to leave you. You have the words of eternal life, my Lord and my God. Amen."
Now please open your eyes.
Our heavenly Father wants everyone in the world to be drawn into His endless life and love. He not only sent His Son Jesus to be born of a virgin and to die on the cross for the sins of the world. God's Son Jesus continues to come by His Word of promise in the bread and in the wine of Holy Communion. He doesn't solve the mystery for us. He isn't speaking figuratively. He promises that He is present in the bread and the wine, and He comes to forgive the sins of all who are truly sorry. Jesus comes to abide in us, to live in our hearts, so that we will be able to remember who and whose we are and where it is that we are going ultimately. The Holy Spirit is working to draw us and keep us close!
If you haven't been baptized with water in the name of the Triune God or if you have a child that hasn't been baptized, then please speak with me at the door. I'll tell you to give me a call this week to set up a time to talk about getting baptized.
If, like my friend and former parishioner, you have been to hell and back and need to talk about it, please call me or e-mail me, I would welcome pastoral conversation with you. God does love you. He wants you to know His forgiveness in Jesus' Christ. He wants you to share in His life and love forever.
Jesus means assurance - the assurance of everlasting life to all who entrust themselves to Him as their Savior, the Lord of Life and death, and who are also baptized into His death and resurrection. Jesus means assurance for those that ponder who they are, whose they are, and where they are going ultimately. Do you know Jesus as Savior, as the Lord over your life and death? Do you trust Him to give you the eternal life that He has promised? Have you been baptized into His death and resurrection?
If you know Jesus, don't be a stranger to worship in His house. Introduce your family and your friends to Jesus. Pray daily. Worship Weekly. Read and study your Bible. Serve at and beyond St. Matthew's. Be in Relationship to encourage spiritual growth in yourself and others. And give generously of the time, talents, and resources that God has placed in your hands for a few short years! When you see Him some day, you want to hear Him say: "Well done, my good and faithful servant!"
In the name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
This sermon was taken from http://www.predigten.uni-goettingen.de/predigt.php?id=3716&kennung=20120826en